This is the story of a blissfully happy married couple striving to achieve financial independence.
We are two twenty-something Americans living a frugal life in, of all places, Cartagena, Colombia. Our journey started in June 2016, when I, the Frugal Mermaid, stopped working as a tutor and suddenly had A LOT of time on my hands. My husband challenged me to research how we were going to earn our millions (we had given up the hope of winning the lottery). I decided that I should start listening to podcasts (clearly I wasn’t really in a hands-on mood). In iTunes, I started searching: “financ…” and it suggested “financial independence”. The heavens opened up and our lives were changed forever.
After a quick look at the top results, the only one that looked remotely interesting to me (because, c’mon, they are all talking about finances after all) was The Mad Fientist’s Financial Independence Podcast. Five minutes into the first episode (his second interview with Jim Collins), and I had been awakened. Over the next week, I filled pages and pages of a notebook with blogs, podcasts, action plans, etc. I know, it sounds like a religious experience. But really, for me, it kind of was.
My hope for this blog is that I can help pass on this life changing experience. This is also a way for us to stay accountable with our goals. If I shout it out on the internet, I’ve gotta keep with it, right? So, without further ado, here is our goal:
Save $600,000+ by June 2026.
I will explain in other posts how we came to this number, but to start with, I need it out there for all to see.
When we started this, we had about $30,000 sitting in a checking account. I know, I can feel you cringe. If only I’d found Jim Collins’ stock series two years sooner! We could have been making SOME money from that money! And if we had been smarter, we could easily have saved twice that, even with our crappy retail jobs (Ace Hardware for me, Target for him) that we had during our first couple years of marriage. But alas, while our new, shiny Southern California jobs later allowed us to save that amount of money in a relatively short amount of time, they did not allow us enough down time (we did have to watch the entire Friends series twice, after all) to think about changing our finances. Mistake learned!
So how do we plan on achieving this lofty goal? The good news is, we do not have ANY debt. We were able to work through and pay cash for our higher education. Neither of us have ever really had much credit card debt (darn you, flat tires!). Both of us have always been great at saving, as well as being very frugal. While we really didn’t set limits for ourselves, have a budget, or specific goals, we have never been spenders. In my opinion, we are both limited to only one costly obsession: eating out for me, iPhones for him. But really…at our craziest, we ate out TWICE a week (gasp!), and my husband got the iPhone 6 Plus, which I think is the most money he’s ever spent on anything, ever (excluding cars and scooters, which, of course, we pay for in cash). So our weaknesses are not terribly expensive, but they can definitely be trimmed to help us meet our goal. We also both enjoy spending money on travel and fun things to do/eat while we are traveling. We have family all across the western U.S., and in Eastern Canada. And we both love a good beach vacation, despite the fact that we lived in Southern California last year, and on Colombia’s sweltering coast this year. However, I have a plan to help us save and not have to give up our experiences…thanks to the Mad Fientist’s travel hacking email subscription list and helpful tools (free!) and TravelMiles101’s Travel Rewards Course (free!), this time next year, I hope to have the miles for many a trip. *Disclaimer: I haven’t started the steps laid out in the Mad Fientist’s travel hacking email subscription because I’m in Colombia and can’t open new cards. But I feel pretty confident in suggesting it, because I love everything he does.*
So that’s our plan!
Continue to live frugally
“Frugally” for us means less than $1,000 a month while we are here in Colombia, and $2,000 or less a month when we get back to the States. We were doing this in pricey Orange County, California, so I believe it is completely doable.
Start working up to saving 75+% of our income
I hate to make excuses and say that this is impossible now…but it is for us at this point. Let me rephrase that…it’s not IMPOSSIBLE. But at this point, we are putting other things before our savings goals, just for the short time we are in Colombia. Right now, it’s important for us to have an amazing beach-front apartment (because, really, when will we ever pay the hefty beach-living prices in the States?) as well as letting me stay at home and not work. My Spanish is very limited (but I’m learning!), so I’m lacking the level of understanding, not to mention the vocabulary, to go and sit through an interview, let alone work everyday in Spanish. So we’re putting this step on the back burner until we get back to the States, but we are still trying to save every penny we can without depriving ourselves (you know we’ve got to have that expensive, imported Planters Peanut Butter!).
Put the majority of our savings into the Vanguard VTSAX Stock Index Fund
I will be writing a post about our reasoning, but for now this is all you need to know: this is a set-it-and-forget-it portfolio strategy. Easy and the most profitable? I’m on board (Frugal Merman suggested I use more ocean terms. Get it, on board?).
Continue to pay credit cards off every month; don’t incur any debt
This hasn’t been a problem for us since the beginning of our marriage, when he was briefly unemployed and I was only working part-time. And I don’t foresee this being an issue, since we have a nice emergency fund now. But it’s good to write it out, just the same. Now we just use credit cards for the cash or travel rewards they provide.
Take trips with miles
While we have the emergency fund for trips we need to take due to illness or deaths in the family, I would ideally like to have a hefty balance of miles so we can take the trips we WANT to take, as well as having some leftover for those emergency trips.
Start a few side hustles that don’t take very much time away from being together
Our time together is the most important thing to us. So I’m not committing -at least at this point – to spending all of our free time in finding alternative sources of income. However, if we find something we enjoy doing that is only taking away from the hours we spend watching TV, that’s a win-win.
While I’m sure some of you would be more or less aggressive, this is the plan that we feel comfortable with right now. Keep in mind that this doesn’t really factor in kids, and we are both starting to feel the kid-bug bite more and more, so I’m sure there will be changes in the future. We also have little to no idea which jobs we are going to get back in America. With all these unknowns, we may have to increase our spending or push back that quit-our-jobs-date of June 2026. While this is definitely a possibility, our plan is to try our best to keep with this number and date! Only time will tell, but for now, we’re just rolling with it!